European space companies will collaborate on Starlink competitor IRIS²

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A new partnership of most major European aerospace companies wants to participate in the tender for the European satellite communication network IRIS². That must become a competitor of Starlink.

It new consortium consists of Airbus, Eutelsat, Hispasat, SES and Thales Alenia, five of the largest European space companies. They are the chairmen of the new partnership. The providers and companies Deutsche Telekom, OHB, Orange, Hisdesat, Telespazio and Thales are also affiliated with this.

The companies will collaborate on IRIS², a constellation of Internet satellites. The European Union agreed to that plan at the end of last year. IRIS² should become a competitor for other satellite constellations in low Earth orbit, of which SpaceX’s Starlink is currently the largest. Other companies, such as Amazon and Meta, also want to set up such networks in the future. Europe wants to respond to this by setting up its own network, so that it is not dependent on commercial parties. The European Union initially wanted to use OneWeb for such a network, but it went bankrupt and after a restart is largely in the hands of the British government.

The companies in the consortium say that European start-ups can join the partnership at a later date. Europe hopes that this will stimulate the space sector. The Union aims for the project to be operational in 2027, but that seems very ambitious and difficult to achieve. The satellites are likely to be launched by Arianespace’s Ariane 6, but it won’t make its debut flight until next year.

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